My doctor took a look at my knee last summer during my first-ever visit in order to evaluate my knee pain. I tried to shove aside the embarrassment of having missed a spot when shaving my legs earlier that day and listen well to what he said so I’d know how to proceed with my fitness goals… and whether I really had arthritis, as I self-diagnosed myself as having in my early twenties, since one of my siblings with similar knee problems had arthritis already.
After extending it and palpating the sides, he said, “Feels like you may have a torn meniscus.” That’s not arthritis. That’s not so bad, right? He said he could do more tests to find out what was going on, if I cared. I could do physical therapy for it (not a high priority at the time, since I was still suffering frozen shoulder and was totally focused on that). It was possible they could do some surgery to repair or rig up something, but once you start in on the knee, he went on, it’s pretty much surgeries for the rest of your life. “Well, you don’t do a lot of running, do you?” Wait, how could you tell, me being obese and having knee pain?
All photos of me being active over the last few years depict me in a Velcro knee brace that minimizes the pain during the activity, and I elevate/ ice my knee down after anything strenuous just in case. That joint has been behaving rather well for all dog walkings and the several 5k events I’ve done since I began losing weight. There’s been less stress on it and therefore fewer instances of pain. I’ve even been taking the stairs up to my office as much as possible, partly to save electricity, partly to add just a little bit more exercise to my life, and partly to benefit my leg muscles.
When I did the local 5K in May with my dog, we ran in short bursts, and it was a lot of fun for both of us. And it didn’t hurt me that much; I elevated and iced my knee right after the race, and I was fine the next day save muscle soreness, which is a whole different, wonderful beast than joint soreness. It would be fantastic to take both my dogs out to run more often… once the Texas summer is over (so, in October? Sigh).
I tried the well-known Couch to 5K program back in 2006, but I was a little bit more out of shape and was about 40 pounds heavier than I am now, and I didn’t own a knee brace or an ice pack. I lasted about two weeks before it just became too painful. It didn’t help that, at the time, I lived on the third floor of an apartment building with no elevator, so when my knee hurt, I had to tough it out and walk back up those stairs. Exerting oneself to build strength and test strength is one thing; stressing a body part that needs to heal is another. As a previously injured person, I wasn’t doing myself any favors by trying too much, too soon.
I wonder now if I’m ready to start running. I would love to test it out, though I’d rather start in a field on dirt and grass. And maybe I should get my strength up in other ways, too – start out with a month of pilates to work on my core and get everything used to moving again. And I should continue with my at-home physical therapy for my weak shoulder. I have missed a few workouts due to being ill the last several days, but I feel better when I get it done.
I go back to my doctor in a month or two. I will start preparing myself to run by continuing shoulder therapy, doing pilates at least twice a week, and researching exercises I should be doing to strengthen the muscles supporting my knee. Then, I’ll discuss it with my doctor. I hope to have lost even more weight by the time I see him, blowing right past the goal weight he set for me back in February. I’m sure that will help my chances of being able to run more comfortably and with less chance of seriously hurting myself if I start running.
If running is completely taken off the table, I’ll have to suck it up and content myself with walking, which I already love, and weightlifting, when my shoulder is ready. I’ve got a backup plan based on my current reality, but I am shooting for a goal that’s seemed out of reach for most of my adult life.